November 2016: Gondola's annus mirabilis

Party on Gondola

It’s been such a wonderful year that I thought it was worth taking time to put fingertip to keyboard and tap out a review of our 'annus mirabilis' (to misquote Her Majesty).

The year got off to a flying start with the arrival of the new ‘Sid’. Carved and gilded by the skilled craftsmen of Peter Hall & Sons at nearby Staveley, Sid was ready to take his place of honour on the prow of the boat for our opening cruise in March. Below is a time lapse video of the 'birth of Sid'.

Gondola’s movie star appeal attracted a number of film crews and TV personalities in April and May. She starred alongside Penelope Keith in Hidden Villages, with John Sergeant in an episode of the Secret Life of Books and finally with Paul Martin on Flog It. We were hoping Hollywood would come calling, but as he's off to Channel 4 we'll settle for Mel and Sue and Mary Berry. A Great British Bake Off challenge on Gondola would be quite something to see, although our firebox might be a little too hot as an oven.

Talking of Hollywood, Gondola didn’t feature in this year’s new Swallows and Amazons film (although she was used by Arthur Ransome as the inspiration for Captain Flint’s houseboat), but Coniston did feature quite prominently as the location for Houseboat Bay, Island Camp and Secret Harbour in the film.

'Swallow' and 'Amazon' moored up on the East shore of Coniston Water during filming
Film boats moored on the East shore of Coniston

In June we kicked off the Gondola poetry project with a group of local poets led by Geraldine Green, ‘Writer in Residence’ at Brantwood. We’ve just had the group back on board to do some recitals of their work to camera. Here’s Geraldine reciting her poem ‘A day on the Gondola’.

This year also saw the launch of the Grand Victorian Circular Tour, a modern recreation of the tours once organised by the Furness Railway Company at the height of the Victorian tourism era. It starts with a ride on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway and ends with a cruise on Steam Yacht Gondola along the length of Coniston Water. In between, travellers enjoy a cruise on Windermere with Windermere Lake Cruises and a visit to Claife Viewing Station with connecting journeys provided by Mountain Goat. The ‘GVCT’ will be back next year.

Early tourists on Steam Yacht Gondola
Early tourists on Gondola

Finally, we picked up the Cumbria Tourism Award for 2016 Visitor Attraction of the Year. Marvellous!

The Gondola team proudly showing their award for Cumbria Visitor Attraction of the Year 2016
The proud Gondola team at Cumbria Tourism Awards 2016